Please Advise! Cheap Oil's Temptations, They Burn!

You're not alone, soothes Dr. Steve. We're all victims of a resource-based economy.

By Steve Burgess 19 Jan 2016 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

I notice oil is very cheap right now. Don't you think we should be taking advantage of that situation? Shouldn't we be developing new devices and machines that run on this cheap and abundant fuel? For example, I notice the Oscar-nominated movie Mad Max: Fury Road featured a guy with a flame-throwing guitar.

That seems fun, and now it's economical too. We could have flame-throwing bicycles, umbrellas, and children's toys. Why are we bothering with microwave ovens when we can charbroil every cheese sandwich with fiery jets of nature's bounty? And who are these fools continually babbling about responsible resource consumption? It's not 2013 anymore, people.

How about a national contest to come up with the most innovative use of this convenient, affordable oil? Winner gets my new Edible Oil Cookbook, full of tasty recipes. Try the duck!


S. Hell

Dear Mr. Hell,

Doomsday for Canada's resource-based economy has often been predicted. Everybody knows the end is coming someday. Still, remember the words of Jesus: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not even the angels in heaven."

And how, Jesus. This certainly wasn't the particular economic Armageddon many were expecting for us. Our dire future was supposed to involve depleted oil supplies. No doubt someday it will. Currently, though, there's too damn much of the nasty stuff. Our beleaguered loonie, usually floating on a sea of oil, is now drowning in it, recently dipping below 70 cents U.S. Based on current market trends, Canada's unit of currency will soon be replaced by the cauliflower. The recent Powerball lottery drove Americans crazy with dreams of wealth, but the way our dollar has been going, a 2-for-1 coupon for the Medford, Oregon location of In 'N Out Burger would be enough for most Canadians to quit their jobs.

The current oil price situation is analogous to global warming. Long-term temperature trends are indications of a changing climate, but daily temperature fluctuations are just weather. Same thing with oil. Over the long term our fossil fuel stocks may be in decline, but right now the oil market is having a stretch of very bad weather. Saudi Arabia is pumping the stuff out, probably to screw with Iran, which is about to come back into the world market with its own supplies. But whatever the reasons, the current global market has more oil than Downton Abbey has tea. And whatever else they accomplish, events like this are a reminder of how little control Canadian governments exert on economic indicators. Oil prices determine the value of our currency, and the value of our currency drives inflation. Our leaders are sitting in a toy car on a merry-go-round, spinning the little steering wheel and pretending to drive.

Fuel sobriety be damned!

But to your point, Mr. Hell -- it appears you do have your finger on the public pulse. People want to take advantage of cheap oil. A gas-powered can opener is so far unavailable, nor is there yet a self-propelled laundry basket or a bird feeder with a built-in furnace. (I win. Send me that cookbook.) So oil spendthrifts do what they can. They buy SUVs. Recent U.S. sales figures show SUVs and trucks are leading a surge in vehicle sales. To hell with fuel sobriety. We're falling off the wagon and into a much bigger wagon with really shitty gas mileage.

It's another reminder that as a species, long-term vision is not one of our strengths. That's been the driving force behind the stock market, the payday loans industry, and military action in the Middle East. How long do you suppose it took before ancient Romans moved back onto the slopes of Mount Vesuvius? If human foresight was measured in units, the standard would be one nose-length. And most of us would possess the perspicacity of a Pekingese pup.

The Tyee recently ran an interesting article by professor Michael T. Klare in which he argued for the real possibility of low oil prices for decades to come. But his article also mentions other recent oil price predictions that turned out wrong. And Klare suggests oil prices could be suppressed by lower long-term demand. Maybe. Or maybe people will be building three-Hummer garages and putting the black stuff on their breakfast cereal. When it comes to market predictions, I tend to go with Jesus: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, not even the angels of heaven."

Amen.  [Tyee]

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